To celebrate its twentieth anniversary, AUSL an equity-focused nonprofit, selected twenty alumni of its Chicago Teacher Residency program for the Martin J. Koldyke Educator Leadership Award. Awardees were selected due to their strong leadership in advancing the education of students in under-resourced environments.

Read more in our blog post.

Regina Roberts – Principal
My experience in the Chicago Teacher Residency prepared me to be a teacher and cultivated me to become a school leader. As a resident with prior classroom experience, members of my cohort sought my feedback on their lesson plans and instruction. I was even called upon to mediate conflicts among members and help guide my resident partner towards his passion – all responsibilities befitting a principal. My journey in AUSL’s CTR program came full circle when I was hired 13 years after graduating the program to lead the organization’s first school. AUSL’s CTR program was valuable in introducing me to an extensive network critical to my professional growth and development, and more importantly, facilitating lifelong friendships and connections.

Terrence Murphy – Diverse Learner Teacher
As I was transitioning from the business field to education, AUSL became the avenue of my change in path. The CTR program provided a principle foundation of what an effective teacher, principle, & school should resemble. The CTR also outlined a roadmap of instructional methods and strategies as well as a learning environment to practice these strategies. The residency program allowed us to have a place to learn and grow as an educator. AUSL provided a portrait to the educational landscape along with a set of values to guide my teaching. I am grateful for the opportunity to be an alumni of the CTR program.

Michael Konkoleski – Math Teacher and Mentor, Solorio HS

Just like all well-constructed houses, the foundation is the key to its success. Likewise, much of my success as a teacher can be attributed to the foundation that the CTR program gave me – without this support system, I would have struggled mightily throughout my teaching career. As I’ve become a mentor in the CTR program, I’ve had to think deeply about everything I do as a teacher so that I can explain it to my residents – this activity has made my teaching foundation even stronger.

I truly find joy in knowing that I have had a positive effect on thousands of CPS students on a yearly basis.


Chelsea Bennett – Primary Diverse Learner Teacher (k-2)
AUSL’s CTR program helped me realize my potential to be an excellent educator. Prior to joining the AUSL CTR, I volunteered in an AUSL school where residents were training to be teachers. During my time at this school, I was encouraged by staff and administration to join the residency program, and in seeing the CTRs dedication to the residents before me I decided that I wanted to be a part of the residency program.

As I entered the residency program, through continued coaching and mentoring the CTR helped me develop my own unique teaching style and the confidence necessary to lead my own classroom and make an impact in the school. Since graduating, the CTR has provided me with the opportunity to mentor new residents as they navigate their own teaching practice, while also allowing me the space to further develop and perfect my educational practice.

Teresa Chavez – Assistant Principal, CPS

During my time with AUSL CTR I was surrounded by people who were not only talented but strived to enhance their practice at every and any opportunity – this mindset was contagious.

With AUSL, I was able to gain skills that allowed me to be efficient and creative in the classroom – this in turn allowed me to teach rigorous instruction that helped my students meet grade level benchmarks year after year. After my residency, AUSL continued to provide professional development that enhanced my skills, building my capacity as a teacher and as a leader.

I would like to thank AUSL’s CTR Program for believing in the idea that the toughest schools deserve the best teachers, then going out to make the seemingly impossible possible because all children can learn and will learn given the right support, love and expectations – this is what I learned from AUSL CTR.

Sarah Buhayar – Director of Strategy Office, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In the CTR program, I developed the essential stance that as an educator, this work was not about me. It was about my students. That helped me to keep my ego out of the equation and do what was necessary to support our kids. That belief has been invaluable to me as a leader in many settings – that my leadership is in support of, and service to, others.

I loved teaching Saturday School at Dodge. For around 10 weeks in the winter, students would come in on Saturday mornings and spend extra time working on math and reading. It was such a great time to engage them in longer activities like building bridges and exploring with graphing calculators… it was the same classroom, the same kids, and the same teacher, but it was a little more fun on a Saturday.

Taissa Lau – 8th Grade Science, Tarkington School of Excellence

I would, without a doubt, not be where I am today without the opportunities the AUSL CTR provided me. During my residency year with the CTR, I was able to train full time alongside my mentor teacher where I was able to practice teaching strategies and learn best practices to provide a high-quality education to all students. The AUSL program allowed me to expand my network of colleagues who supported me in my growth and pushed my own personal practices to become the most effective educator I can be.

My fondest memory of working with students comes from while I was in the residency program. At the end of my residency year, I was presented with multiple gifts from my homeroom class. They had taken into consideration my love for soccer and personally designed and signed a USA soccer team shirt for me with personal message wishing me luck in my future teaching career, purchased my favorite soccer player’s jersey, signed a personalized image for me, and included a package of first year teaching supplies.

Jessica Kimbrough – Associate Director-Chicago Teacher Residency

I began my teaching career with the CTR as resident in 2013. Throughout this time I participated in hours of professional development to learn with and from my colleagues. I have grown as a teacher leader in mentoring and coaching from the building level to now, within, the larger program. As I look to continue making contributions to public education, I am grateful for the learning and experiences I have had from AUSL and the CTR.

My reason for doing this work lies in Room 204 at Dvorak, I spent about 1,056 days in that classroom. Room 204 is just one classroom from the stairs right above Central Park. In the 8,448 hours spent in my classroom, I was able to create a safe learning space. Teaching special education offered me the unique experience of teaching the same group of students for more than one year, sometimes even three years!
The time I spent in room 204 making mistakes and learning with my students changed my life and created my reason, the reason I will always go return to.

Kate Peterson – Director, Chicago Teacher Residency

I was fortunate to be introduced to the profession of education by an amazing community of learners. I learned to continue being curious… becoming just as much a learner in the classroom as my students. I learned that a community can accomplish more than any one individual. I learned that if there is a need or a problem that really bothers me, it may be a signal that I can be part of the solution. I learned to develop others through coaching and the power of a well phrased question.
I will never forget my first graders during my first year teaching who set up a community garden with me in the Spring. We got to know each other so well by spending Saturdays digging in the dirt together! That connection point was what helped me finish strong at the end of my first year. We had become a classroom family,

Demetrius Heard – Arts Curriculum Designer – Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Digital Learning for Chicago Public Schools

As a resident, I was given the unique opportunity to immerse myself in teaching, from classroom management strategies and teacher moves, to power instructional practices that I got to engage with everyday in real life with real students gave. This sparked a confidence in me that carries over to how I approach teaching and learning with my students and in my current role. The CTR also provided me with the ability to coach colleagues by being able to identify and draw from a variety of strategies learned as a CTR resident.

As a CTR resident, I got the opportunity to assist my mentor teacher in the development of the school choir, and took that experience with me as I developed my own choir program at my school. If it hadn’t been for AUSL and the CTR, my students would have never had those opportunities to showcase their artistic abilities on such a grand stage.

Greta Kringle – High School Science Teacher

The AUSL CTR program provided me a community and support network to guide me through my first years of teaching. I leaned on and learned from my co-residents, other AUSL teachers and mentors in that training year and still to this day. During our training year, I remember gaining so much from debriefing our common experiences and challenges from the week in our Friday classes. The model is set up well to give teachers in training realistic experience in the field and time to actually process and reflect on lessons learned. I often wish I still had this model for my week – because there is still so much in this work to process and reflect on.

After the residency year, I was still involved in the AUSL community and totally revamped the way I thought about teaching science by working with the AUSL Science Specialist. Over the years of collaboration with other AUSL science educators and implementing phenomena-based curriculum, we have a much more engaging and authentic science curriculum. I appreciate the continued flow of resources and collaboration offered through the CTR community.

Melissa LaVine – Academic Director

Being an AUSL resident changed my life. It has fostered my passion for excellence and educational equity. It has enabled me to connect with dynamic young people and adults that have helped shaped me into the educator I am today. I am here, because I had a great foundation, and people who believed in me, and the CTR gave me that.

One of my favorite things about being in AUSL for so long, is being able to watch my former students grow up and flourish. Seeing them have success beyond my room and being able to have a larger impact on the school as a whole is so rewarding, especially when they come back, beaming with pride to show off their high school report card. It is such an honor to be a part of this community, and I am so grateful to them for the opportunities they have given me.

Leah Guenther – Middle School ELA teacher, Dewey School of Excellence

I am passionate about language arts, and I have a great deal of knowledge about literature, grammar, vocabulary, and writing. But people don’t realize–until they’re standing in front of 35 young people–that neither your passion nor your depth of knowledge will make you a good public school teacher. What matters before passion or content knowledge is your classroom management, your ability to create engaging lessons, your willingness to respond to student interest and ability and mood.

I learned all of these things by working for a year under an amazing mentor through AUSL’s CTR program. Without that critical year of training I am positive that I would not have made it past the first year of being a teacher. Fortunately, I had that support, and, for that reason alone, I am lucky enough to still be in the classroom twelve years later, able to share my passion and knowledge of language arts with thoughtful young people each day.

Juan Uribe – High School Diverse Learner Teacher, Chicago Academy High School

From spending a summer attending DePaul for coursework, to being in three different school training sites throughout the school year, the CTR could not have better prepared me to set foot in a classroom. Courses, readings, essays, and mock lesson plans are of high importance, but being able to take that knowledge and apply that learning in our different sites is what allowed me to be the best teacher I could be on the very first day of my career as a teacher and beyond. The CTR’s mentorship system introduced me to one of my closest work friends and now colleague. Throughout my year of training, he was honest in his feedback and challenged me every single day. It was definitely not easy, but without the CTR I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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